EARLY YEARS

Mark's luv of music began at age 7.

In his early years he was a shy kid, the youngest of 3 boys. His Mother was Italian and a graphic artist and his Father, Irish a Marine Sergeant and Korean War veteran. Home life was turbulent but when things were good the music was always playing.

 

 His parents were spinning records in the house, filling his head with a diverse mix of sounds. Artists like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin and movie soundtracks from Hollywood's golden era. TV shows like American Bandstand, Hee Haw with Roy Clark, Soul Train, Lawrence Welk as well as weekly church hymns. Other than basketball, music was the only other thing of interest. In retrospect it could have been David Cassidy on the Partridge Family that initially sparked his interest in wanting a guitar. Him standing there with his perfectly feathered hair and a Sunburst Fender Stratocaster guitar singing 'I Can Feel Your Heartbeat' was impactful. But growing up in a poor family made getting a guitar of his own seemed far out of reach.

 

From early on one thing was clear, the power of a great song is where everything really happens!

Early favorites came from his first pieces of vinyl. Elton John's 'Greatest Hits' and a 45 of Neil Young's 'Heart of Gold'. Also a KTEL 'Believe in Music' album with 'Go All The Way' (The Raspberries), 'Brandy' (Looking Glass), 'Let It Rain' (Derek and the Dominoes), 'Long Cool Woman' (The Hollies), 'Hold Your Head Up' (Argent), 'Summer Breeze' (Seals and Crofts) and 'Backstabbers' (The O'Jays). The moody ballads really captivated him. Songs like 'I Never Cry' by Alice Cooper,  'I Feel Like A Bullet In The Gun Of Robert Ford' by Elton John and 'All By Myself' by Eric Carmen were given endless spins on his little suitcase record player. Also influential was soul music like  Parliament, Ohio Players and The Commodores!

Then on a most special day, Mark was exposed to an earful of serious RocknRoll albums from the early and mid-seventies.  Led Zeppelin '2', Pink Floyd 'Dark Side of the Moon', Montrose, Boston, Journey 'Look Into the Future', Black Sabbath 'Masters of Reality', Yes 'Fragile', Ted Nugent and Derringer. His brothers album collections were influential as well, revealing how powerful it was to listen to a full album front to back. How important it was for the songs to be heard in the perfect, intended sequence and what a ride it would take you on.

Albums such as Queen 'Night At The Opera', Foghat 'Live', Genesis 'Lamb Lies Down On Broadway' and Heart 'Little Queen' were stand out examples! And then one day a neighborhood friend Bob Auen showed him the album cover for Kiss's 1975 'Alive' album and it was game over!  Seeing that iconic photo was life changing and fueled Mark's desire to be in a band and get on stage!

He was aware even then, that to make his musical dreams come true, he only had a lifetime to make it happen. Lol

The race was on, the clock was ticking and the dream had already begun!

Luckily, older brother Kevin had a beat up nylon string acoustic guitar with strings so high off the neck it was virtually impossible to play. That didn't stop Mark from gettin it in his hands and pouncing on it! Kevin eventually gave him a guitar lesson (the only one he's ever had), teaching him the essential basic chords etc. Not long after, his brother acquired a knock off Gibson Les Paul Special electric guitar! Even though Mark was NOT given permission to play it, nothing was gonna stop him from picking it up whenever his brother wasn't around. Fortunately it wasn't long before his Mother took him to Montgomery Ward's department store in Oakland, Ca and bought him his very own axe! It was a 'Global' imitation Les Paul guitar for $67.

The 70's were a great time for an aspiring young guitarist as the music of the era was filled with so many great bands and players to listen to. Mark's inspiration soared as he fiercely practiced the guitar, honing his skills and absorbing all he could. He began studying all his favorite guitar heroes and always had a guitar in his hands.

 

There have been many influences on Mark and his guitar playing. In no specific order, players such as Jimmy Page, Ace Frehley, Brian May, David Gimour, Tom Scholz, Neal Schon, Alex Lifeson, Angus Young, Michael Schenker, Ulrich Roth, Ritchie Blackmore, Gary Moore, Toni Iommi, Rod Price, Peter Frampton, Ronnie Montrose and Wally Stocker. And guitar teams within bands like Scott Gorham & Brian Robertson, Joe Perry & Brad Whitford, Glenn Tipton & KK Downing, Pat Travers & Pat Thrall, Roger Fisher & Howard Leese. Then Jeff Beck, Allan Holdsworth, Al Di Meola, Ian Crichton, Eric Johnson, Andy Summers and the 3 Steve's , Steve Hackett, Steve Lukather and Steve Morse. Most recently it's the great Gerry Leonard and Mike Stern.

 

While there's been much music and many artists that influenced Mark, there's nothing more inspiring to him than a great singer! The human voice resonates even more than an instrument which is merely an extension of the person. The voice is built in. It's flesh and blood and cuts through to the listener in a deeper more emotional way. 

Growing up in Alameda, Ca was a special place! Aside from basketball, music was the only real thing of interest and anyone who was in either game was an ally or a competitor. There were many aspiring young guitar players in the area and it seemed as if every other house on every block in town was the home to a guitar hero in the making. Along with brother Kevin were neighborhood musicians such as guitarists Jim Stewart and Craig Breakbush as well as that were all adding to the excitement of it. One day Craig played his black Fender Stratocaster in the basement of his house and demonstrated the solo for Pink Floyd's 'Money' and Zeppelin's 'Stairway To Heaven'. This was a truly mind-blowing day for Mark. There were other pivotal moments like meeting Tim Hill on the porch of a friend's house near the infamous 'Jackson Park' (where the local weed dealers hung out). Tim sat with his White Flying V playing along with UFO's 'Mother Mary' from the Force It album. This was so epic! The sound of Michael Schenker was now firmly embedded in Mark's ears! There was John Cruz (RIP) and Eddie Fontaine. Mark recalls John showing him how to play the beginning to Rush's '2112' and John became a great friend to Mark. And then a mind-blowing rendition of Van Halen's 'Eruption' and UFO's 'Rock Bottom' by Eddie in the BBQ area of Alameda's majestic 'Lincoln Park'. That was mesmerizing! 

 

Soon he found his first drummer, Joey Frye (RIP)!  A sweet guy with massive talent that looked cool too! While no official band was created, there were many jam sessions were had at his house and in the basement.

 

Marks first real public performance was at the age of 12 during the lunch hour in 8th grade on the Lincoln School ampitheatre stage in Alameda, Ca. The band was "Open Current" with singer Scott Rowley, guitarist Steve 'Sky' Clems  and his best friend 'Jimmi Ward' (guitarist now turned bassist). Together they experienced the rush of rocking a crowd in front of their school mates! Absorbing as much music as they could in their off hours from school they practiced riffs and had endless fun learning on Jimmi's infamous Kingston EKO guitar which would eventually be nicknamed the 'Flying U'. The musical seeds were being planted as they fueled their musical hearts and from this moment forward Mark was lazer focused on his career and there was no sign of ever turning back.

During this period was also a growing bond with guitarist Mike Carsey. Together they did massive amounts of woodshedding and they both shared the same dream, to Rock the world! This friendship was functioning on a higher level and things were really beginning to blossom as a unit. The two would meet up in the early morning hours after finishing their paper routes and it was all about Winchell's donuts, coffee and imitation Gibson Les Pauls. Learning every lick they could from Kiss, Aerosmith, AC/DC & Ted Nugent! The perfect way to start the day, studying their heroes while on their way to becoming real guitar slingers. The duo's vision would soon become real in the form of 'Overdrive'!

 

Also during his early years there were side jobs at a couple of record stores like the Record Factory and Record Gallery. These outlets provided access to so much music both new and old of every style. The 99 cent, budget bin was invaluable and it was filled with classical albums, perfect for stealing licks and melodies while providing a whole nother flavor of music to get hooked on. The time spent in these places was like having access to the ultimate music library. Leo Steccati (RIP) and Gerard 'Fud' Ford (RIP) were adopted big brothers and really supported and helped out in so many ways!

Through the years Mark's the path has unraveled with many interesting twists and turns from starting bands to leaving his own band to join another, to being a hired gun to contributing to movie soundtracks and more.

 

His luv for music continues to evolve with a welcomed flowing shift in direction on a natural and fluid path. With no compromise in artistic vision or fitting in with trends, he stays committed to authenticity! A life in music that's been exciting, humbling and filled with emotion, inspiration, tragedy and eye opening experiences. Moving through it brings a deep sensation of gratefulness and accomplishment for all that's been and all that's yet to come. To those who were pivotal and helped along the way, his appreciation runs deep and they are never taken for granted!